Serving our Country to Serving our Community: Joseph Phillips’ story

Joseph Phillips spent most of his adult life serving our country in the U.S. Army, and today, he enjoys the full benefits of retirement after 20 years of military service. However, halfway through his career, Joseph admitted he was ready to “throw in the towel.”


“I wasn’t being promoted after 11 years in active duty,” said Joseph. “I was ready to hang it up, and I desperately needed guidance.”


That’s when Colonel John Heldstaub came into the picture and changed Joseph’s outlook. He provided Joseph the guidance and mentorship he desperately needed, showing him options and helping him discover the Reserves.


“If not for him, I would have thrown it away. Having someone there to tell me I can get through it, I will make it, I want to be able to do that now,” Joseph says. “I want to be a mentor and help those when they need help, regardless if its time, money or guidance.”


He does this by volunteering with the Indy Free Tax Prep program, administered by United Way at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. During tax season, Joseph files taxes for his clients free of charge so they receive their full tax refund. “This program is a godsend for individuals who can’t afford to have their taxes done professionally,” he says.


Taking on the role of mentor and coach, Joseph takes the time to listen to his clients’ concerns and finds a solution for them. “One thing volunteering with Indy Free Tax Prep has given back to me is a way to stay in tune with our community. I want our neighbors to know that there are people like me who really care about their fight and are willing to step forward when assistance is needed,” he says.


Recently, Joseph discovered one of his clients had not filed his taxes in seven years. “He didn’t know how to start or where to go,” says Joseph. He helped the man file four years of tax returns, and guided him to resources that could help him with the remaining three years of returns. “Just to see that man have a ray of relief on his face and be able to get it done was a wonderful experience.”


Joseph is a great example of how United Way volunteers are fighting for the financial stability of members of our community. As a key volunteer for Indy Free Tax Prep, Joseph has become a game changer for people in need. “Joseph is a dedicated volunteer,” said Leona Murphy, site coordinator for Indy Tax Prep. “He is always there for us no matter what we needed and he is great with our clients.”


United Way is seeking more volunteers like Joseph for the Indy Tax Prep program. Math and accounting backgrounds aren’t required – volunteers need only a willingness to learn, a dedication to the work, and a passion for helping others in the community.


“If you want to volunteer in a program that will really change not only a client’s life but yours, this is the program,” Joseph says. See what Joseph means by signing up to volunteer! Find out more information here or email us at to get started.